See Rock City! Gnomebody Wants to Miss it!

I guess I am still in lame joke mode from this weekend.  I apologize.  A little.

Rock City is a strange–yes, almost enchanting–place.  The entire trip through Rock City took us about an hour and a half.  But we didn’t dally for brewskis or barbeque, so I cannot guarantee that your trip would be as quick.  Tourists are led along a stone path, which is referred to as “The Enchanted Trail.”

Enchanted?   I don’t know.  But definitely a cool, shaded haven on a hot day.  That alone felt like magic.  It doesn’t take long before you run into Gnome Country.  I sort of loved the gnomes, but was still cautious of them.  Never can be sure about those guys (they aren’t a very culturally diverse and/or gender diverse group).  You’ll have to look closely to see the gnomes in the third picture.

Once you say goodbye to the gnomes, you need to prepare yourself for Goblin’s Pass.  I told Mom to look afraid as she entered under Goblin’s Pass.  This is her “terrified” expression.

The path has some crazy twists, turns, and squeezes.

Jordan got stuck trying to keep his shoulders perpendicular to the wall.

Eventually, the trail led us to the crown jewel of Rock City: the man-made waterfall at Lovers Leap.  First the bridge:

Jordan and my father are too much alike sometimes.  They both seemed to thoroughly enjoy rocking the boat bridge.

Alas, Lovers Leap.  And the fall.

Rock City claims that visitors can see seven different states from Lovers Leap.  But it tends to be a bit hazy, so I think the seven states days are few and far between.  But quick!  Geography quiz!  What seven states should you be able to see on a clear day from Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga?!

I think I can see maybe two in this shot 🙂

Beyond this, there are better views of the falls and a fairy tale cave of wonders.  We thought the cave was a little, um, how do you say….trippy?  Strange scenes of gnomes glowing in black light, for example.  But it was visually stimulating, if nothing else.

Rock City is another touristy place that forces you to embrace kitsch if you want to enjoy yourself.  Luckily, I had practice from Ruby Falls mood lighting that morning. And I’m now thankful that we can smugly think “Done that” when we drive passed the “See Rock City” signs.

Cassie Goes Spelunking | Ruby Falls in Chattanooga

As promised, here comes a Ruby Falls from our Chattanooga trip.

To reach Ruby Falls, find Highway 41.  There are plenty of signs to guide the way to Ruby Falls.  Seriously.  You cannot get lost.  They won’t let you.  It’s like they suck you in.  And when you arrive, there are plenty of parking attendants to direct you to the sunny parking spot you would rather avoid.

To enter Ruby Falls, you will enter the limestone building, which was constructed from the limestone that was blasted away when the cave was reopened in the 20s.

The tours leave quite frequently, so there isn’t a need to worry about what time you arrive.  We bought the combination tickets for Ruby Falls and Rock City, which saves three dollars per person.  Not much, but it doesn’t hurt.

The tour begins with an elevator ride that descends 260 feet into the cave.  Once we reached cave level, it was clear that taller people might struggle with the low clearance.  I, on the other hand, didn’t have to duck at all.  Check out Dad’s (6’1) clearance:

Two inches was about as good as it got, unless there was a large cavern above us.  But hey, that’s better than having to crawl through a two foot space the entire time.

We started our tour with some cheesy (lame?) jokes from the tour guide and a short historical film.  The tour guide seemed like the kind of guy who may have a Masters degree in geology, but is bitter because he is stuck giving tours to people who are still struggling to learn the difference between stalagmite and stalactites (mite are from the cave floor, tite from overhead).  He was king of the monotone delivery.  He muttered something about these televisions being from the “Panasonic Era.”

Along the way to the falls (an easy, half-mile walk), we came across numerous formations.  Many had silly, yet understandable names.  There was the donkey[‘s behind], the turtle, the cactus, steak and potatoes, etc.

But there were also some amazing formations that lacked names.  And a beautiful mirror “lake.”  I know, the mood lighting isn’t exactly natural, but it did seem to add to the mystical feel of the cave adventure.

When you finally reach the falls, the light show really begins, the music starts to play (very inspiring ahhhhs in repeating pitches…I joined in), and the tourists start to get really excited.  I know, it’s ridiculous.  But somehow, I really felt like I was having an Indiana Jane moment.  (What’s that?  You don’t know what an Indiana Jane moment is?  I’ll write a post about it!)

It’s gimmicky.  It’s crowded.  But it is still a 125 foot waterfall inside of a cave.  It’s not like I see the inside of a cave every day.   I took many pictures and pretended like I could ascend through the beam of light into a spaceship.  Maybe they should rename Lookout Mountain “Witch Mountain.”  And invite the Rock to come make appearances.

Jordan and Dad sneaked behind the fall.  I think it’s the light and their posture, but Mom and I decided that they look a little alienish in the photo (think Signs).

I made my trip behind the fall too.  I look more like a human than an extraterrestrial being.  Bummer.

On the way back to the surface, you will be referred to as “Survivors.” And there will be jokes about not losing any tourists this week, etc.  The way back seemed more like business.  Everyone’s got their photos and their experiences.

I started thinking of ways to convince Jordan to come back in October when the cave is “haunted” and tourists are allowed to climb out the 1000 foot long emergency exit while being chased by zombies.  Every woman’s dream, you know.

If you’re on the fence about Ruby Falls, I would do it.  It’s neat.  Just let yourself enjoy the lights and music and bad jokes.  Don’t bother worrying about the commercialization of nature’s greatest wonders.  Unless you’re on a very tight budget.  Then you may want to save your money for a decent Greek meal in town and act like you skipped it because you are protesting against that evil commercialization…

Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga

Today was my parents’ last full day with us in Tennessee.  We decided to venture out a bit farther from Knoxville.  It seems like we normally opt for Asheville when considering day trips, but thought Chattanooga might be fun for a change (and sometime we will have to make it to that city called Nashville).

As usual, I have got a slew of pictures for you, so I’ll be giving an overview of the day, and splitting our day up into a few blog posts throughout the week.  Let’s be honest, I don’t have as much to write about on the weekdays.  No one is too interested in my weeknight work meetings….

We started our day with an at-home, on-your-own breakfast, and made it out the door about 8 AM.  Our first stop was historic Lookout Mountain, home to Ruby Falls and the [in]famous Rock City.

I thought there might be more of a Civil War spotlight here than there was.  Or maybe we just missed it.  Maybe I need to do more research….

Dad, Jordan, and I went on a cave tour, which led to Ruby Falls, the largest underground commercial waterfall in the country, measuring in at 125 feet tall.  I’ll save most of my pics for another post, but you should know that the half-mile walk to the falls is worth it, even in spite of the cheesy lighting, music, and pre-fab tour guide jokes.

Once we resurfaced, we headed to the observation desk to steal a glance at the city of Chattanooga.

We didn’t reach Rock City (which is only a five mile drive on Lookout Mountain Incline Highway from Ruby Falls) until about 1 PM.  My stomach was growling like crazy and I was concerned that Jordan might be a bit hangry as well.  (He swears he just learned of my use of the word hangry to describe his hungry/angry moments, but I know I have mentioned it to him before).  So we stopped at the Starbucks across the street for some juice and snacks.  Of course I did not realize that Rock City really contains a “city,” where you can buy all sorts of food and drink. Ah well.

It took us nearly an hour and a half to complete our walk of Rock City.  We were thankful for the shade and cool temperatures provided by some of the rocks and caves along the “Enchanted Trail.”  We weaved through gardens, gnomes, and rock formations to overlooks such as this one.  Rock City is also cheesed up for tourist, but I am certainly not above a little kitsch.  🙂

Eventually, we found our way back to reality and out of enchantment.  And then we needed some real food.  We headed to downtown.  Earlier in the week, Mom was asking for Greek.  As far as we know, Knoxville is lacking in the Greek Restaurant department.  Anyone out there know differently?  I would love to hear a Greek restaurant suggestion in the Knox County area!

Anyhow, we knew that a new, inexpensive Greek restaurant had opened in Chattanooga since we were there last.  We tried out Taziki’s on Market Street.  It worked out well for our purposes.  No long waits, no expensive tips necessary (though a tip jar does sit on the counter), good food, and meaty and meatless options.  I went with the grilled eggplant sandwich.  It was amazing!   I am always disappointed when I make eggplant at home, but I need to give it more time.  Clearly, it can taste great.  I had a tomato/cucumber side. 

Jordan went with the classic lamb gyro.  He seemed to enjoy it, but acquiesced that my eggplant was tastier.

All in all, we had a great day as tourists, even in spite of the heat.

The ‘rents are going to be on the road by 4 AM tomorrow morning (yikes!).  As always, we were glad to have visitors.  I feel a bit guilty about not being able to take any time off from work to spend with them, but they seemed to do just fine on their own.  Thanks for visiting, Mom and Dad!